ABC Extra – Many Workers, Same Denarius

November 22, 2010 at 5:15 am Leave a comment


One of my favorite parables is that of the Laborers in the Vineyard.  Jesus says:

For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire men to work in his vineyard. He agreed to pay them a denarius for the day and sent them into his vineyard. About the third hour he went out and saw others standing in the marketplace doing nothing. He told them, “You also go and work in my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.” So they went. He went out again about the sixth hour and the ninth hour and did the same thing.  About the eleventh hour he went out and found still others standing around. He asked them, “Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing?” “Because no one has hired us,” they answered. He said to them, “You also go and work in my vineyard.” When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, “Call the workers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and going on to the first.” The workers who were hired about the eleventh hour came and each received a denarius. So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius. When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner. “These men who were hired last worked only one hour,’ they said, ‘and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.” But he answered one of them, “Friend, I am not being unfair to you. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius?  Take your pay and go. I want to give the man who was hired last the same as I gave you. Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?” (Matthew 20:1-15)

This is a parable, of course, about how all who believe in Christ, whether they have come to faith through baptism as an infant and have labored in the vineyard of Christ’s Church all their life, or whether they believe on their deathbed, finally receive the same heavenly reward.  This is what the “denarius” stands for:  eternal life.  And Jesus’ point is that eternal life is a gift of God’s grace.  It cannot be merited by our piety and works.

In verse 2, the landowner agrees “to pay them a denarius for the day.”  The NIV here makes it sound as though the workers are somehow meriting their award of a denarius because they are getting paid for what they do in the vineyard.  However, in Greek, the word “pay” never appears.  The ESV does better: “After agreeing with the laborers for a denarius a day, he sent them into his vineyard.”  There is no notion of payment, only a predetermined agreement.  Finally, we learn that the denarius was not a payment at all, but a gift.  After the laborers who began work at the start of the day begin to grumble because they receive the same denarius as those who began work at the end of the day receive, the landowner asks, “Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius?  Take your pay and go.”  (And again, the word “pay” does not appear in the Greek.)  “I want to give the man who was hired last the same as I gave you. Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous” (verses 13-15)?  It is the generosity of the landowner that leads to the gift of the denarius, not the work of the laborers.  For eternal life is a gift of God’s grace.

Luther explains this well when he writes that in eternity, “In his person none shall be more or have more than the other, Saint Peter no more than you and I.”  Even the most notable saints on earth finally all receive the same heavenly reward.  For, “in short, all are to be alike before God in faith and grace and celestial bliss” (St. L. VIII:1223).  It is important to note that Luther goes on to say that we are indeed recognized with differing degrees of glory for our good works (cf. Luke 19:12-19, 2 Corinthians 5:10, Galatians 6:8-9), but the reward of eternal life itself is universal for all who trust in Christ.

Thus, all Christians are all on their way to the same destiny:  eternal life in, with, and through Christ.  And when the days in the vineyard of this earth get long, that is a great hope.  So lift up your eyes to the heavens!  Your denarius awaits.

Want to learn more on this passage? Go to
www.ConcordiaLutheranChurch.com
and check out audio and video from Pastor Tucker’s
message or Pastor Zach’s ABC!

Advertisements

Entry filed under: ABC Extra. Tags: , , , , , .

ABC Extra – “We Got Spirit, Yes We Do!” Help! I’ve Lost My Faith!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Trackback this post  |  Subscribe to the comments via RSS Feed


Follow Zach

Enter your email address to subscribe to Pastor Zach's blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 1,973 other followers

Questions?

Email Icon Have a theological question? Email Zach at zachm@concordia-satx.com and he will post answers to common questions on his blog.

Calendar

November 2010
M T W T F S S
« Oct   Dec »
1234567
891011121314
15161718192021
22232425262728
2930  

%d bloggers like this: